June 9, 2011
By Chuck Colbert / TRT Reporter
They tried invoking a higher power to call out sunshine and rainbows.
They were the 700 people of faith who attended the 34th annual Interfaith Prayer Service, held on Saturday morning, June 10, at Old South Church, Copley Square, shortly before the parade began.
Rabbi Howard A. Berman of Boston Jewish Spirit even appealed to “Barbra [Streisand], our patron saint, who taught us to pray, ‘Don’t rain on my parade,’” he said.
But for the second year in a row, it rained.
And yet the gray skies, chilly temperatures, and raindrops failed to dampen spirits as participants in Boston’s 41st annual Pride Parade trekked the 2.1 miles from the city’s South End and Back Bay neighborhoods, passing the Public Garden and State House, along the way to City Hall Plaza for a festival.
A pesky drizzle persisted indeed for nearly the entire hour-and-a-half long march in celebration of LGBTQ self-identity, affirmation, and civil-rights progress.
One parade participant was state Representative Denise Provost (Dem.-Somerville) and daughter.
“I told her that I marched in the 1970’s in what might have been the second march, which was as joyous and beautiful as this one is for me,” Provost said.
“But I am also thinking about all my classmates from high school, some of whom have died from AIDS or have had sad lives from the oppression and injustice that used to be so normal,” she said. “I am so happy for the change.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Provost, who represents the 27th Middlesex District, was not alone among parade-marching elected officials. Others included Governor Deval Patrick, his wife Diane, and openly gay daughter Katherine; state Treasurer Steve Grossman and wife Barbara, and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino — all ardent allies of the gay community.
Boston city councillors also marched with groups of supporters, as did several Democratic candidates hoping to defeat US Senator Scott Brown in 2012.
Of course, the parade also had the usual contingents of LGBT community organizations, students, seniors, religious congregations, and sports teams.
The theme of this year’s Pride was “Equality. No more. No less.”
As Boston Pride deputy director Keri Aulita explained, “There’s power, strength, and energy when we gather, when we take to the streets, when we carry our signs.”
But “at the end of the day” she added, “the road must lead to full, true, indisputable equality. No exceptions. No concessions. Equal treatment under the law, in our schools, at work, in our neighborhoods, at church.”
Contingents of transgender persons and representatives from business corporations spoke directly to this year’s Pride theme.
Transgender marchers, for example, emphasized inequality and the need for civil-rights and safety protections.
And this year marked clearly a larger, more visible transgender presence in the parade than in previous marches, with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, an advocacy organization, and the variety show and cabaret troupe TraniWreck, two prominent contingents, among others.
After all, only three days earlier state lawmakers heard testimony from transgender activists and allies — all hoping the Legislature passes a bill that would add “gender expression” and “gender identity” to state law banning discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and access to public accommodations.
The civil-rights measure would also add gender identity and expression to existing hate crimes statutes.
Meanwhile, other transgender persons had different messages for parade watchers.
One man in drag held a sign reading, “Who threw the first shoe? We’re still fighting.” He (or she?) was apparently referring to transgender people on the front lines of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, a flare up at a New York City bar between patrons and police that ignited the modern gay rights and liberation movement.
Workplace equality was also spot on the parade theme, with the palpable presence of a lot more corporations this year, including contingents from Staples, UPS, Fidelity, Sun Life Financial, Zip Car, Home Depot, Eastern Bank, AT&T, Frito Lay, TD Bank North, and 42 Below Vodka, among others.
A Google contingent marched wearing T-shirts emblazoned with an image of two Android phone guys for Pride.
“Google has an office in Cambridge,” said Blake Landrow when asked why a group from the company participated.
The magic of Macy’s also graced the Pride parade for the first time ever. The department store’s big red balloon was unmistakable.
Colin Riedel, a sales manager in charge of the company’s Pride commitment, said, “Macy’s is hoping to reach the LGBT community in Boston and to show that we support not only our community in town, but also all our associates who work with us.”
Yet another newcomer: Boston Ballet sponsored a booth at City Hall Plaza’s post parade festival – a first. Patrick Yocum, who joins the ballet corps this year after a two-year apprenticeship, was among several representatives selling Pride T-shirts and handing out 2011 – 2012 season schedules. Yocum said a ballet group might march in next year’s parade.
What about all this corporate participation in Pride?
Cathleen Finn welcomes it. “We spend so much of our time at work, we may as well be happy and treated equally,” she said.
Deputy director Aulita agrees. “People have some [reservations] about the corporations in the parade,” she said. “But they are members our community, with LGBT people working in these companies. If LGBT resource groups go to their corporations and say, ‘We want to be out there,’” I don’t understand why we wouldn’t welcome these companies.”
True enough, LGBT people are not alone in celebrating Pride. Straight families enjoy the festivities, too.
“We like the parade and think it is important to educate the kids from a very young age about diversity and accepting everyone,” said Asaf Yigal, father of two boys, Seth and Eden, ages six and three.
“They think the parade is fun,” added Sharon Yigal, wife and mother. “And they get to see all kinds of people.”
The South End couple has attended Pride for the past eight years.
Filed Under: Eastern NE News